I didn’t get to see Roger Waters when he toured Melbourne last year, something I deeply regretted after my Mum showed me the amazing videos she took at the show. Watching this concert film on a big screen at the cinema was the next best thing I guess.
I’ve always been mighty sceptical about the appeal of watching a concert at the cinema, but while it can’t compare to the real live show, the big screen and theatrical experience is rather an upgrade from your home TV. Of course it didn’t hurt that the production looked and sounded fantastic and featured some of my most favourite music ever; I practically grew up on Pink Floyd and then became an even bigger fan in my adult years. A full Pink Floyd concert is sadly impossible, but a solo Roger Waters gig is nothing to sneeze at, as I found out.
Now in his mid 70s, Waters looks like a human equivalent of a picturesque ruin, a striking and authoritative figure who may have mellowed out a bit with years but still retains a great measure of fury even as his voice gets more cracked and weathered with age. He always made it clear that he had a lot to say about social and political issues, and this concert was unsurprisingly political, touching on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, refugee crisis, and the current US administration (let’s just say that Donald Trump is not his favourite person in the world). In Waters’ own words, it’s uncertain how much difference these shows can make, but at the very least, this fierce engagement with the current issues does a lot to save Us + Them from being just another cosy nostalgic run.
Of course there’s also all that glorious glorious music from all the classic Pink Floyd albums, plus about three songs from Waters’ solo career that, while not on the same level, didn’t feel like bitter medicine you had to swallow along with the good stuff either. The shaggy-haired David Gilmour stand-in (who got to sing the lead on songs like Money) and the two female back-up singers in snazzy blond wigs were in fine form. The show was also an awe-inspiring spectacle and a full display of what the modern technology can do for the arena/stadium gig. Apart from the enormous LED screen, late into the concert a giant contraption with multiple moving screens descended from the roof, to first recreate the iconic factory from the Animals album cover, and then to deliver some blistering anti-Trump sentiment. There were also many emotional audience shots, including lots of young people in their 20s and 30s in the general admission who clearly feel strong connection to the music written before they were born.
While I loved the concert, it did make me a tad sad to think that this kind of big spectacular arena rock show is a dying breed. My boys Muse are still carrying the torch, but even they aren’t exactly spring chickens anymore.